Author Topic: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay  (Read 931 times)

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Offline Gags

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A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« on: December 31, 2013, 01:42:55 PM »
Hi All,

It was that time of year again when I dig out the parka, the longjohns, the sweaters and gloves and go home to the Bronx to visit the family.  I wanted to make this partly a research expedition and hit a few highly rated pizzerias...

The first was John & Joe's in Morris Park.  While not far from where I grew up, this was my first time there.  A nice, throwback kind of place, nostalgic pictures on the wall, and John himself was at the helm.  I ordered a slice of Sicilian and Jessica got the white slice.  The Sicilian was a perfect rendition of what I remembered growing up:  crisp bottom, generous amount of cheese, sweet sauce.   It wasn't too oily and the texture of the dough was fantastic.  I tasted the sauce separately and it was a nice simple, sweet canned tomato with a little basil.  It tasted very much like the Cento San Marzano's I use at home.

The white slice was a bit more peculiar.  A giant slice, of course, but the crust made me curious.  It had a powdery consistency or feel to it.  And not powdery in the sense that there was too much bench flour, but just a dry, flaky, powdery texture.  Also I noticed the “scales” on the crust.  Did the dry air of winter cause a skin to develop on his proofing dough?  I imagine folks on this site can provide a better guess than I can.  Nonetheless, it wasn't the moist, chewy dough that I was used to, but a pretty good slice.  I only spoke with him a little bit since he was pretty busy with a healthy walk-up and delivery business that weekday.  When I asked about the differences between his regular slice and Sicilian, he said that they use a different sauce.  That seemed strange, but he wouldn't provide any more clues.  I think he was a bit guarded about his methods, not knowing who I was.   
"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"


Offline Gags

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2013, 01:44:32 PM »
We then walked over to Arthur Avenue to have dessert and to accomplish another task – to get the amazing, coal-fired Terranova Bakery pane di casa.  We got 4 loaves, walked across the street to the Post Office and sent them Priority Mail back to SoCal.  I never said this trip would be low-carb or gluten free!!
"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"

Offline Gags

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2013, 01:46:21 PM »
Moving on to Manhattan the next day, we bounced around Little Italy for a bit, then stopped in at Prince St Pizza.  A tiny place no more than a stone's throw from Lombardi's, it can accommodate 8 people or so.  We hopped in and split their fresh mozz slice.  This thing was perfection!  The crust had a fantastic texture, breaking and folding just right.  Look at those micro-blisters! Upon tasting, I noticed the contrast between this and the one at John & Joe's – this didn't seem dry at all.  Additionally, the fresh mozzarella and ribbons of basil elevated it a notch or two above the standard street slice.  As we left, we noticed the line at Lombardi's went from ending at their door threshold to wrapping around the block, about 40 people deep.  No surprise I guess for Friday during the holidays!
« Last Edit: December 31, 2013, 01:53:06 PM by Gags »
"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"

Offline Gags

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2013, 01:48:52 PM »
On Saturday, it was a sunny 57F in New York, so we walked from our hotel on 40th, through Central Park, up to East Harlem.  We grabbed a few photos of the building where my great grandfather lived back in the early 1900's, then walked the ten more blocks or so to Patsy's on First and 117th.  We were lucky enough to be seated right away, but I noticed the three servers were pretty slammed.  A couple of large tables compounded the effect.  They were fast to bring us a salad and vino, but the pie was going to be awhile.  When it came out, it appeared to be much closer to Neapolitan than New York style.  In terms of dimensions and the slicing, it was NY.  But the pale crust, the fresh mozzarella, the simple sauce, and the fired-oven seemed more NP.  I was disappointed when I checked the undercarriage and noticed it to be completely charred.   Some areas had the leopardy char of NP and other areas had what  looked like a solid tar-like coating.  In terms of taste, though, it wasn't bad.  I would have preferred a more balanced bake between top and bottom and across the bottom as well.  Maybe they didn't spin the pie during bake?  Maybe they turned it onto a section of fresh, hotter deck?   Regardless, it tasted pretty good and despite my thinking I was only going to have a couple slices, we finished the whole thing!  One more way in which it seemed to emulate NP pie – it never felt extraordinarily filling or heavy.  Our server, slammed as he was, was kind enough to show me the kitchen and oven.  I didn't know it, but the oven is visible from the by-the-slice counter next door, but that view would have been obstructed by the patrons and pizzaioli.  I was able to see the mountain of Sassone flour bags then had and also the interior of the oven.  I was surprised to see it lacked a dome and instead even appeared to have a reverse-dome or a sag in the middle!!  We got the ubiquitous Patsy's photo out front and headed off to the subway.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2013, 01:54:56 PM by Gags »
"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"

Offline Gags

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2013, 01:50:52 PM »
And I'm happy to report that even with all that pie, a couple of cannoli and sfogliatelle, I didn't gain a pound!!   LOL!!

Mangia bene and Felice Anno Nuovo!!

- Ryan


"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"

Offline mkevenson

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2013, 01:59:02 PM »
Ryan, GREAT review of your pizza trip. Thank's so much for taking the time to share with us.
I have only been to NY city one time and it was before I got the pizza bug, but with stories like yours, I want to go back and eat pizza!!!!!!!
Mark
"Gettin' better all the time" Beatles

Offline Chaze215

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2013, 02:10:43 PM »
Thanks for the reviews Gags! That Patsy's pie looks terrible. That's one if the worst undercarriages I've seen in a long time...especially from such a popular destination. And congrats on not gaining a pound!
Chaz

Offline Gags

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2014, 01:29:30 AM »
Mark, Chaz,

Ringrazio Molto!  I tried to convey the essence of the trip with lots of photos and I think we all like to see the pizze even if we can't taste them.  I definitely appreciate your joint enthusiasm and feedback!  I agree with Chaz - at first sight, I would've  rejected the Patsy's pie, but the taste was okay and I didn't wan't to cause a scene.  If it were my place, I'd try to enforce more of a tight standard, but what can you do?  I guess I'd rate the Prince St. the best, followed by Patys's because of tradition, and then John & Joe's.   

As an afterthought, I think maybe J&J's crust suffered from low amylase activity?  Pale crust, scaly skin, powdery texture...

Mangia bene!
"I'd trade it all for just a little bit more"

Offline waltertore

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Re: A trip back home - Three NYC pizzeria photoessay
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2014, 09:47:27 AM »
nice pictures!  It brought me back home for a few moments.  Patsy's crust looked terrible.   Unfortunately most people are driven to attain much more money than they really need.  Thus they hire unskilled people and live on their reputation.  I would have sent that pie back. 

What can you do?  Not much as a consumer but as an owner there is lots one can do.   Keep it small.  Make the pies yourself and or with people you have intensely trained to do it your way.  This is how pizzerias use to be when I grew up in the 50's-70's in the NYC area.   The owner made the pies and if others were making them they were family and or longtime employees that were raised in the business.  That is all falling apart today.  Typically today you will have a real NY Italian character as the front man and the pizza makers, although hard workers, do not have the depth of skill to make the pies right.    I know we as a species like to romanticize the past but I am telling you pizza use to taste a lot better back then than it does now in most pizzerias.  I respect the artisan guys that are keeping this alive.  It seems to be more in the WFO scene than the gas deck scene.  I bet as the WFO scene continues to expand as rapidly as it is more and more places will turn out crap.   Money is something we all need to live on.  I was lucky to live around the world and see how different cultures declare what is enough.  The USA is way over the top.  Most newer homes have master bedrooms that are about  the size of our little  house.  I say live simple and put your love into your pies.   That is old school pizza making at its best!  Walter
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 09:54:40 AM by waltertore »